Thursday, October 13th, 2011
Yesterday's Lunch Consisted of Cream Cheese Licked Off the Bagel
Fia’s food thing is driving me CRAZY. I watch her little friends shove fistfuls of food in their mouths. I sigh. I am exasperated.
It’s not that she’s particularly picky. It’s that often times she’s just not hungry until it’s too late. By that, I mean, she won’t eat, then will melt down later on, and nothing will console her. She’s always been a small eater, but at lunch, she rarely wants anything other than junk food. I have tried all sorts of foods, but she refuses to eat, or if she does, she only wants crap.
By dinner, she is quite hungry and usually eats decently. But guess what happens between lunch and dinner? She completely melts down. And my sanity goes south.
I know, all the books, experts, blah blah say you can’t control their food. You need to put whatever you’re serving in front of them and let them eat on their own terms. If I hear, “Your baby won’t starve. She’ll eat when she’s hungry,” one more time, I will scream. BECAUSE THAT’S NOT MY DILEMMA. I know she won’t starve. But my brain might explode.
I mean, yeah, on a scientific level I get it. She doesn’t need that many calories to sustain her little self. But when you’re at the playground at 4:30 pm and she throws herself on the ground crying, I absolutely know it’s because she’s hungry and hasn’t eaten. That’s a problem.
I know that toddlers are apparently controlling when it comes to their food. But what I don’t believe is that she has the depth to think, “Hmm, I’m cranky because I didn’t eat.” Isn’t that what we have to teach them? But how? I can’t force food in her mouth. Believe me, I’ve tried. She spits it right back out. Usually all over the floor, where hungry Wayne Sanchez anxiously awaits a bonus bite.
For lunch today, all she wanted was crackers and cookies. Nothing else. Do I relent and let her eat junk food just so she gets something in her stomach? I will if that is the temporary solution. (I could at least get organic junk food and not feel as badly about it.) Or do I hold firm and deal with the consequences of a screaming, unhappy baby?
Fellow Blogger Heather Morgan Shott recently wrote about her dilemma with Mason suddenly becoming a picky eater at home. So I know the food thing is a familiar topic with many of us moms. But what I can’t find is a solution to the mood swings/consequences that occur when she won’t eat. Or at least when she doesn’t want anything even remotely healthy. Anyone want to offer up any advice? I’m all ears.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Must Read
Saturday, November 27th, 2010
From the beginning of her bottle life, Fia took it like a champ. So much so, that even after she turned one, I was apparently feeding her too much formula. Truth is, the bottle became my crutch. If she didn’t eat enough real food I’d get nervous that she would be hungry, so I’d give her one. It was quite enlightening when I recently took her to the pediatrician for her one-year appointment.
Here’s how the conversation with Dr. TJ Gold began:
“How’s her appetite?”
“Well, I’m still giving her about 32 ounces a day of formula. Real food is kinda hit or miss.”
A stern stare. I continue.
“She gets picky at the table and I worry that she’s not eating enough, so I fill her up however I can.”
Dr. Gold nods knowingly, as if saying, yeah, I’ve seen this before.
“And do you also run around while she plays trying to put food in her mouth?” she asks.
“YES!” I exclaim, thinking she “gets” it. She understands how picky babies are. I continue: “I run around the exersaucer chucking cheese into her mouth. I run after her through the living room, shoving saltines in. Anything I can get her to eat and any way I can do it.“ I beam, waiting for the sign of approval.
Dr. Gold clears her throat and she says something to me that was a game changer for me.
“Terrible Two’s happen because of parenting choices made during the 1’s.”
She continues, “And it’s much harder to reverse bad behavior than to just begin with good behavior.”
Look, I feel like I’m a fairly reasonable, somewhat smart and aware person. And I’ve read the range of babybooks—from Dr. Sears to Babywise. But in this scenario, for whatever reason, my mom instincts were off. I’m sure it stems from my primal need for sleep and my irrational fear that she’ll start waking up in the night hungry if she doesn’t get enough during the day. Whatever the cause, I’m so so so glad Dr. Gold stopped me cold in my tracks and reversed my behavior. It immediately made a difference, and continues to nearly a month later. Here is a recap of what I learned:
You feed your baby broccoli one day, the next day she flicks it off her tray and refuses to eat it. You try pasta, which you know she likes. And oops, there goes the flick again. She isn’t interested in any of the usual staples. Desperate, you scour your fridge. Yogurt and applesauce. The sweet stuff. You pull it out, try it on her, and voilà, she eats it. Guess what? You’ve just been had and your baby just won a major battle. Continue like this, and soon she’s the master. And you’re the servant, scrambling to find food she’ll eat.
“Picky eaters are formed by this exact scenario,” Dr. Gold tells me. They know if they flick food off, eventually mom will come running to their rescue with something sweet.
Then she gave me a very healthy warning. “This is also how you end up with a 2-year old who can’t sit still at a restaurant. And it’s how you start to lose your edge as a parent. “
“But, what do I do?” I say, wringing my hands. “If she won’t eat, then she’ll wake up in the night, and next thing you know, I’m dealing with a newborn schedule again!!”
Not true, says Dr. Gold. Mealtime is very specific. You put her in the highchair, TV off, time to focus and you feed her. If she flicks her food, you stop feeding. Take her down. Wait 30 minutes. Try again. She’s not going to starve. When she’s hungry enough, she’ll eat.
She also told me to switch to whole milk and cut down to 16 ounces a day max.
At the visit, Fia was in the 10th percentile for weight, 48th for height. While Dr. Gold wasn’t a bit worried, I swear Fi fattened up within 3 days following her instructions. It was a remarkable shift. And now, she literally eats everything. And lots of it. When she sees me setting her food out, she toddles up to her highchair and throws her arms in the air, begging to go in it. A far cry from me running around in circles, chasing her while shoveling bits of food in her mouth.
Every baby is different, so this might not work for you, but I just thought I’d share my own experience. My new and improved routine goes like this:
7am – She wakes up. I give her a 6 oz bottle of whole milk.
8:30-9am – Breakfast. Yogurt, toast with peanut butter, banana, etc. Sippy cup with water and a splash of OJ.
11am – Lunch. Chickpeas, rice, chicken, mac and cheese….whatever I’m eating. I just cut it up in small pieces.
1-2pm – Small bottle. Snack.
5-6pm – Dinner. Again, whatever we’re going to eat.
6:30pm – Bath time.
7pm – Book and 6 oz bottle. Baby sleeps through night.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Tricks and Tips